Significant pressure is mounting on the Government to reconsider their position on legal aid funding for clinical negligence victims as opposition continues to grow. The Government have been planning to ensure that legal aid will no longer be available for clinical negligence victims. A full description to the background of this story is available here.
Steve Walker, who is in charge of managing the NHS negligence bill, has voiced his concern that it would be counterproductive and would "undoubtedly cause NHS costs to escalate massively". He cautions that it will lead to an increased number of Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA's) with potentially exorbitant insurance premiums to cover the costs of disbursements.
Lord Justice Rupert Jackson (who was appointed by the Master of the Rolls to lead a review of the rules and principle governing the costs of civil litigation and who produced the biggest review of civil costs since Lord Wolf's enquiry over ten years ago) has also expressed concern. In a speech to the Cambridge Law Faculty (5th September 2011), he stated that it would be most "unfortunate" if legal aid was removed for clinical negligence. He agrees with the Judiciary's view and the Law Society's view that clinical negligence should remain within the scope of legal aid, but if the government was against this then he strongly urges that legal aid be retained for the costs of experts' reports because ultimately it will save the tax payer money.
AVMA (Action Against Medical Accidents) have now raised the stakes and written a formal letter of claim to the Ministry of Justice signalling their intention to judicially review their decision to take clinical negligence out of the scope for legal aid, on the basis that the decision is irrational and unlawful due to the inadequate impact assessment and consultation exercise and false assumptions in the Government's reasoning.
The Bill Committee stated (8th September 2011), that they will examine Lord Justice Rupert Jackson's aspects next week. The final Bill is then to go to the House of Lords on the 13th October 2011.
Please revisit our website for our future comments on the outcome.
Please click on the Clinical Negligence link, if you require any assistance with a claim or are unsure over any issues.